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Is anyone guaranteed to be paid for 'X' amount of cuts?

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by Lawn-Scapes, Aug 25, 2001.

  1. brucec32

    brucec32 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,403

    It may not work out the best for me financially on first glance, but my system is simply to charge a set fee "per mow", and adjust mowing frequency to the needs of the lawn. If it's Spring and growing fast, I'm there weekly. If it's August and dry, I hit it 2 times that month. Of course this is adjusted based on the type of grass. It might yield 30 visits on some lawns and only 16 on a unwatered, unfertilized weed patch lawn. I keep my minimum mows per month at 2, to avoid cheapskates trying to request one mow per month. I send customers a form before the season with the "projected" number of mows each month during the season, so there aren't any surprises. I indicate that it may vary some due to rainfall, temp, and their lawn's fertility. I really hate mowing a lawn that doesn't need it, almost as much as mowing a lawn that is overgrown.

    I base when I go out on how long it will take me to mow it appropriately. I try to time when I get back before it would require more time than usual, which is before it gets too tall for the mower to handle smoothly and quickly. This method means that my "time on-site" for each property is uniform, which aids scheduling and routing. I don't have to worry about being there 2 hours one week, and 30 minutes another.

    For my personal situation, it means I'm mowing more in Spring (when weather is cooler and nicer) and less in the Summer (when it's hot and I'm getting tired). It also means I don't wind up doing "make work" or really tough work like shrubs when it's hottest and the wasps/hornets are stinging. I "fill in" in the Fall with aerating/seeding, and by late fall I'm doing mulching, shrubwork, etc. I stay at 100% capacity March-June, then about 80% July-August, then 100% September, 80% October, 50% November-Dec, and 25% Jan-Feb. Of course this would wreak havoc with employee scheduling, but if you are clever you can adjust. I find that I get really burnt out on the biz if I don't get away from it for a couple of months each year. I also simply cannot function at 100% effort 12 months a year anymore. As far as slack times, there are plenty of services I could add to fill in if I wanted, (gutter cleaning, mulching beds, powerwashing decks, etc, etc) but I prefer the time off. I usually only do things like that 'upon request" and I don't advertise doing it.

    More power to you if you can get people to agree to it, but I think that trying to "force" a customer to pay year round or for mowing too frequently during a drought period results in higher turnover than necessary (people tend to resent paying when they don't perceive they need the work done). Usually they will just cancel and have no lawn service until Spring rather than pay through Winter if their budget gets tight. Usually the "year round plan" simply means you're paid too much during the slow times and charge too little in the busy season anyway. I find I can charge a little more "per mow" once people understand they're not paying for any wasted trips (blowing off the drive in January for $40 or mowing half-dormant Fescue in August) The net result is that I do more work when it's pleasant out, and less work when it's hottest. The customer also pays less per year for service, so they're happy. I simply have a few MORE customers, and the net result evens out. I work harder than average for a few months, then less hard during the worst weather. I haven' t had a complaint in years, and avoid getting in arguments about how often I come out to mow. I come out when the grass gets tall enough to need a mowing, period. I find giving them a little slack and being flexible means they trust you more and don't fight you on everything. I don't feel bad if I only mow it once a month, because they're only paying for one mow. And I don't feel bad if I have to hit it 5 times, because they know it will need it. I've seen people lose customers because they charge a monthly rate, then always seem to mow it maybe only 3 times a month when it's growing fast , and 1 time when it's not. And it makes customers constantly paranoid that they're gonna get ripped off.
  2. brucec32

    brucec32 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,403

    One problem I see with substituting shrub trimming or weeding for a mow during dry months if you're charging a set rate: That kind of work is, at least for me, much more taxing and difficult than mowing. I would rather mow for 2 hours than trim shrubs (heavy gas pruner, lots of bugs, hauling clippings, etc) for one. So spending the same 30 minutes pruning on a property during slow-growth periods is ok, but not something I'd do regularly, or promote. I work very fast and hard, so it may be different if you loaf through the job. I simply can't make myself do that, however. I always feel like I'm wasting time. But I really tired out really fast doing muscle labor like that instead of mowing.
    Then again, if you have Paco doing it , I suppose you don't care. (but he does, you might have higher turnover because of that)
  3. AltaLawnCare

    AltaLawnCare LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 961


    If that plan works out good for you then thats great. I can see some advantages to getting residential work....

    But I take it you don't bid on any commercials??

    Also, I like the idea of the security of having a customer "locked" into a year contract.
  4. brucec32

    brucec32 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,403

    I did a few commercial jobs early on, and it is probably more steady paying work, but it really just didn't fit what enjoyed doing most (mowing). Since the commercial customers want turnkey service, you are of course doing everything required on the site. This means you're doing more stuff like mulching, plantings, weeding, pruning, etc, that I don't find as easy to do or enjoyable. Many of my residential customers just want the lawn mowed. They are busy and can't always find time. They don't seem to mind doing the other stuff themselves, especially since all of it can be put off until a day they're free to do it. I also am uncomfortable trying to work with blowers and dangerous mowers around cars and people walking around businesses. One daycare center I worked on made me really nervous. I had to avoid the cars in the parking lot while I tried to clean it off, the kids actually playing in the lawn even though they were supposed to be kept inside, and still get the job done quickly. It just wasn't relaxing or fun. I realize I'll never make as much money not doing commerical work, but it works for me.

    I've worked on several commercial properties when I worked for someone before, too. I found it was only about 30-50% mowing work. That meant that unless I hired several employees and became more of a manager than a outdoor worker, I'd spend about half my time being quasi-miserable. And since I left the corporate world and office jobs specifically to get away from that kind of work, I thought that simply becoming a self-employed office worker/manager kind of defeated the purpose.
  5. BRL

    BRL LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,211

    Your billing "system" is fine & works for you. You are what we would call a "mow & blow" contractor & I feel that billing per cut (or monthly based on actual services rendered) is a good idea for that situation. The idea of the monthly billing is more geared toward the full service situation & I feel is better suited for that. You dertime the price based on all of the services needed for the year & simply break that total into equal monthly payments. This is good for that situation because the contractor & the customer can budget for the year, there is less paperwork (not a bill for mowing one day, another bill for fert. another day, another one for pruning, another one for leaf clean up etc. etc., then waiting for all of those separate checks) and less stress with the cash flow issues. The customer isn't getting cheated & if you know your costs, the contractor isn't getting cheated.

    "I realize I'll never make as much money not doing commerical work, but it works for me."
    This is not necessarily true. You can make a great profit doing residentials only. There are plenty of successful residential only lawn maintenance companies out there.
  6. kris

    kris LawnSite Bronze Member
    from nowhere
    Messages: 1,578

    We get paid regardless.

    Contract is worded .."up to a max. # of cuts.

    We always show up .

    There is always something to do to improve the property.

    Yes some weeks we are in and out in record time.

    Can't imagine having the billing nightmare of per cut system.

    In the contract, it states...invoices to go out at the START of each particular maintenance month.
  7. 65hoss

    65hoss LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,360

    I don't do minimums. I tell all potiental customers up front my policy. I come by every week. If it needs cutting I cut it. If not, I skip it. But it is my decision. If it looks like I cut it yesterday instead of 7 days ago then I drive on. If not, I cut.

    This year has been different than others. So much rain. I cut almost every lawn every week all year. This week has been the 1st time all year things have slowed.

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